Entirety of George Q. Cannon’s Journal Published Online
Prominent Leader’s Record Is Key Resource for Study of Latter-day Saint, Religious, and American History in Second Half of Nineteenth Century
SALT LAKE CITY—The Church Historian’s Press today announced the online publication of the final installment of the journal of influential Latter-day Saint leader George Q. Cannon. This new installment covers the years 1894 through 1901, the last eight years of Cannon’s life. Events of significant interest in this period include Utah being admitted as a state, the death of church president Wilford Woodruff and reorganization of the First Presidency under President Lorenzo Snow, and Cannon’s extensive travels for business or church purposes, including a journey to Hawaii to participate in celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of Latter-day Saint missionary work there.
Reflecting on his time as a young missionary in Hawaii five decades earlier, Cannon wrote in December 1900, “My feelings are indescribable when I see how fully the Lord has fulfilled his words to me concerning that which should be accomplished. . . . Hundreds and thousands of friends have been raised up as witnesses to the truth. What great cause have I for joy in viewing what has been done.”
The Church Historian’s Press began publishing installments of Cannon’s journal in 2016 at churchhistorianspress.org/george-q-cannon. The Journal of George Q. Cannon is the latest in a line of the press’s publications aimed at increasing access to materials related to the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Other publications of the press to date include sixteen volumes of Joseph Smith’s papers, a collection of documents chronicling the history of the Relief Society in the nineteenth century, and a collection of sermons of Latter-day Saint women. Covering 1849 to 1901, Cannon’s journal provides an unfiltered look not only into Cannon’s remarkable life but also into central Latter-day Saint leadership at a time when the church was undergoing great change.
The journal is unusually extensive and detailed, consisting of fifty-two volumes. It provides rich description of and insight into many significant events in Latter-day Saint history.
“I am pleased that the Church History Department has been able to complete the publication of this remarkable record, which will be of great value to church members and historians,” said Reid L. Neilson, assistant church historian and recorder.
Matthew J. Grow, one of the Church History Department scholars who helped prepare the journal for publication, observed, “Cannon’s journals are among the finest in the history of the U.S. West, the history of American religion, and the history of the nineteenth-century United States. The quality of his observations; the scope of his activities; the depth of the individual journal entries; the longevity of the journal—all make this an essential resource. It is difficult to imagine a topic in Latter-day Saint history that involves the second half of the nineteenth century that would not be enriched by using Cannon’s journal.”
In contrast with the press’s previous projects, the Cannon journal has been made available online, without historical annotation aside from some introductory material. Such an approach has allowed the press to make this crucial historical record available quickly and more economically. Another difference in the publication of Cannon’s journal is that some passages of the original journal have been withheld in accordance with policies of the Church History Library to redact sacred, private, and confidential information. As with other Church Historian’s Press publications, meticulous attention has been paid to produce an accurate and reliable transcript.
Cannon began his journal during his mission to the California gold fields as a young man and continued writing until nearly the end of his life. His record covers half a century, a period in which he served as a church editor and publisher, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a territorial delegate in Congress, and a counselor to church presidents Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Lorenzo Snow.
A skilled writer and editor, Cannon considered writing and record keeping to be part of his divine calling. Cannon employed secretaries to help him keep the journal, and extensive portions of it were typed rather than written by hand. Many events were recorded right after they happened, such as an interview in June 1862 with United States president Abraham Lincoln. The fifty-year time span covered in the journal allows readers to see wide-sweeping change not only in the church but also in politics, technology, travel, and other areas.
For instance, the journal mentions arduous travel by team or horseback in the early period and ends at the turn of the century with rapid travel by rail. Topics found in the journal include Cannon’s many travels in the United States and Europe; his counsel to and relationships with his family, which consisted of six wives and forty-three children; his meetings with congressmen and senators; his participation in founding schools and universities; his involvement with temple construction; his close relationships with church leaders and his counsel to church members; his financial dealings; his life in prison after being arrested for practicing plural marriage; and his defense of the church to which he was determinedly devoted.
George Q. Cannon kept his journal during a period when the church was establishing itself in the western United States and beginning to expand in other areas of the world. Now that the entire journal is widely available, readers have unprecedented access to the thoughts and insights of this key figure, as well as a window into how church leaders governed the church and led its growth.
About the Church Historian’s Press
The Church Historian’s Press was announced in 2008 by the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Joseph Smith Papers was the first publication to bear the imprint. The press publishes works of Latter-day Saint history that meet high standards of scholarship. For more information, visit the Church Historian’s Press website.